The Man Who Invented Glam – Gene Krell and Granny Takes A Trip

Bob Dylan in mirrored aviator sunglasses, Keith Richard in Granny Takes a Trip Jacket, Mick Jagger hovering overhead

Bob Dylan in mirrored aviator sunglasses, Keith Richard in Granny Takes a Trip Jacket, at Mick Jagger’s 30th Birthday party – shot by Ken Regan

One of my first two accounts was Barney’s. This led to an interview for Vogue Nippon. We talked Rock fashion. Afterwards the interviewer suggested I meet their Fashion Director Gene Krell. She thought we’d get along well. She affected an introduction.

At that time I was unaware that Gene was a more innovative and influential figure in fashion design than almost all the designers he wrote about. He’d also been a central figure in the most legendary creative milieus of the late 20th Century.

He’d been creative chief and co-owner of famed London boutique Granny Takes A Trip, where he shifted their inventory away from hippie clothes and towards a new sensibility: Glam.

Granny’s disseminated this look to the world by selling clothes to every rock star of note from the late 60s through the mid 70s. Gene knew everybody. Jimi Hendrix ordered an entire wardrobe the day before he died (he never got the chance to wear it). Gene toured with the Rolling Stones doing their wardrobe during the period many consider their most stylish. I asked if he’d ever crossed paths with Syd Barrett. Not only had Syd mistaken the boutique for a laundromat (Syd brought in bags of his dirty laundry), but Gene dated Syd’s ex-fiancee Gala Pinion when she was on the rebound from Syd! I began to realize Gene was sort of like Baron Munchausen only everything he’d done was verifiable.

Other girlfriends included Nico and Christine Keeler. I once asked him, “Hey Gene, how’d you score all those beautiful women. He replied, “It’s easy when you’ve got Mick Jagger sleeping on the floor of your store”.

Significantly the store became a hangout for Rock Royalty in the early 1970s, which perpetuated the customer base and further proliferated the fashion. By the late 1970s the Glam look was everywhere. Granny Takes A Trip had been the central node.

Gene did amazing stuff before and after Granny’s: he was doorman for Steve Paul’s Scene Club in New York which hosted Hendrix and the Doors before they were famous, was later doorman at Studio 54, and worked with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, inventors of Punk, from the late 1970s through early 1980s, helping launch their work in the U.S. He wrote what’s considered the best reference on Vivienne Westwood.

This bio is a post in and of itself.

We’ll talk to Gene on Monday.

Our featured image today is Elton John from the cover of his album Caribou. Granny’s is credited with the whole outfit – sunglasses, too. More on Monday…

Elton John sunglasses and outfit from album Caribou were acquired at Granny Takes A Trip

Elton John in outfit from Granny Takes a Trip on the cover of his album Caribou

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9 Responses

  1. Inger Simonsen says:

    Gene Krell, I am sharing stories about you and Marty Breslau in my book “Longhaired lads of London”! The good times in London! Good memories from Granny’s, Hampstead and The Speakeasy. Hope you are well.

    • Moss Lipow says:

      Check out your book’s Amazon.com info. Looks interesting. How’d you manage to tag along with the Pretty Things out of Norway?

      • I met The Pretty Things in London in 1964, where I lived off and on for several years. One reason I stayed in touch with The Pretties was probably my closeness to some of their family members. Plus we were friends.That said, I didn’t exactly tag along with The Pretty Things, any more than I tagged along with The Rolling Stones or anybody else famous and notorious for that matter. I met Gene and Marty in London, during a lengthy stay there in early seventies. It’s a tangled story ……… stories, I should say. In 1966 I moved to New York, and from there to USA’s westcoast in 1968, so for the major part of my youthful years I didn’t live in Norway. My book stops in 1973, but my life didn’t.

        • Moss Lipow says:

          Sounds interesting. I always thought that was a rich cultural period. You seem to have spent time in many of the most interesting cultural centers. John Stax’s son is an optical rep in the U.S., though John is in Australia now. Gene was in New York in 1966 through 1968 I think, then back to London.

          • Inger Simonsen says:

            Thanks for the info. Appreciate you taking the time. Yes, I know about John Stax’s son as I am in contact with John’s wife on Facebook. Lovely gracious lady, and lovely family. I never realized that Gene came to London in the sixties already. I met him and Marty through friends in early seventies, and we did spend much time together for a while. London was indeed rich in creative endeavors of all kinds back in the day, and I loved it. Kensington Market, Biba, Bus Stop, all come to mind along with The Speakeasy and Portobello Road. Aaaahh, those were the days …………..

  2. Daniel Roberts says:

    When I was playing with Mudcrutch in 1974, we got signed to Shelter Records, and we got a small amount of moolah to use for buying clothes. One of our best friends told us about ‘Granny Takes A Trip’ on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, so that’s the first place we visited. It was a small shop, but it was filled with the coolest stuff, much of which was made in London & NYC. So I noticed a real rich-looking Rolls or Bentley pull up and out pops Elton John & his manager John Reid and they come inside. The store’s manager went over and locked the door behind them and for the next 90 minutes we shopped with Elton. He picked out stuff that wound up on the cover of his ‘Caribou’ LP. I still have the coat that I bought that day…..

  3. Roger Klein says:

    Elton bought the tiger stripe jacket from the Granny Takes A Trip shop in Hollywood.I ran the shop from 1972-1975 working for Freddie Hornik who was the majority owner of the London shop along with NYC and LA. I originally bought the jacket from Texas designer Chance Wayne and sewed a GTAT label inside and sold it to Elton.I also bought a pair of cool tropical lime green glasses with palm trees on the side and brought them to Dennis at Optique Boutique who made glasses for Elvis and jus everyone. I had Elton’s prescription put in and chose a graduated gold to bronze lense. Elton wore them frequently.Later, Elton bought a pair in red and another jacket in zebra stripe.

    • Moss Lipow says:

      Great to hear stuff like this. Freddie was a master tailor, I’m told. I also understand the London partners were not directly involved and the U.S. stores were sort of like franchises. Perhaps you could clarify?

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